New fitness program helps slow progression in Parkinson's patients

MANAYUNK (WPVI) -- Exercise is good for just about everyone, but for some people it may actually help slow the progression of a disease.

When you think of boxing and Parkinson's Disease, you may think the first might lead to the other.

But in this case, the training boxers do to get ready for a fight actually help people with Parkinson's.

That's the goal of a program called "Rock, Steady Boxing."

52- year-old Suzanne Quinn is fighting back against the disease that has slowly weakened her right side.

She's always been active and she doesn't want to give that up.

But two years ago she was diagnosed with Parkinson's, a neurological disease that typically gets worse over time.

Now she's going through an assessment with physical therapist Carol Lieper and former professional boxer Joey De'Malavez.

"We look for balance. That's the main thing," said De'Malavez.

He says soon, Quinn and dozens of others will enroll in Rock Steady Boxing classes.

It's a program that started in Indianapolis. The local Parkinson's Council has expanded it here in Philadelphia.

It uses non-contact boxing fitness to help slow the progression of the disease and relieve symptoms.

Stretching helps lessen stiffness in the upper body. Punching can help steady tremors and the footwork helps improve balance and coordination.

"In boxing they have to keep moving their feet, they're shifting their weight," said Dr. Lieper.

Lieper says it also gives them a sense of empowerment.

Quinn is eager to start. She's hoping it'll slow the progression of her disease and allow her to live as she likes to live.

De'Malavez - who also owns Joltin' Jabs - calls his students in Rock Steady Boxing warriors.

"Seeing these people with this disease, and I fist pump them and they get fired up, that makes me so happy," he said.

The program will have different level classes depending on the severity of symptoms.

It's not a cure but it has been shown to help.

Registration opens May 31st. The cost is $255 which includes 10 classes, a t-shirt and equipment.

For more information call: 610.668.4292 or visit

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